It’s a special occasion these days that will prompt me to pull out my old workhorse of a 35mm Canon AE-1, but it still happens. I grew up with film, and expect to never walk away from it completely. My last project took me on a stretch of the Appalachian trail, running just across the Mount Washington Auto Road, to explore some macro-subjects along the trail’s edge – insects. Packing in the camera, my macro-bellows, or my lenses is never an issue, nor is worrying about sensitive electronics becoming bogged up. In fact, this old camera body has stayed true even after losing 5 lenses to volcanic ash when I was shooting Mt. Etna for the Navy back in 1992. What is often an increasing issue, however, can be finding a reliable place to have the 35m film developed.
Film Developing Locally
Hunt’s Photo, my local camera shop, still accepts film, including 35mm, for processing. No longer processed in the shop, it is instead shipped to a lab in Massachusetts. Just as in the old days, I will have both prints and the negatives for archiving, and though the prices vary depending on project, I can expect to spend about $15. As an additional service, the images can be digitized to a CD for a more practical way of sharing, saving me a step. And as with all things, I prefer to do my business with local shops. In case no local shop exist, here are some decent alternatives. But I stress for the goodness of your soul, do your community a favor and find a local shop.
Mail-In Film Processing
There are plenty of places online that will still process film, whether it be 35mm or other, and I recently tried one out of San Clemente, CA called The Dark Room. Their customer service and ease of mailings made the process simple. After plugging in what I wanted, the web site created an invoice with a free pre-paid mailing label to send my film in. They offer a push/pull for a slight fee increase ($2.00 in my case) and the pictures were scanned onto a CD for free. Without the various add-ons I had, basic processing, printing, and the CD cost me $10. With free shipping.
Walgreen’s Drug Store
Quite a few chain drug stores still accept film for processing, and Walgreen’s is the one closest to me. One bonus of doing this is that Walgreen’s often has printable, online coupons for processing film that can be applied to my orders. The film is sent out of the store to a processing facility, but I can count on notification it’s ready to be picked up in under a week.
Walmart Film Processing
As to be expected, Walmart processes film as well. Though I have not tried this retail giant for film processing myself, I have heard from others that the company does not return negatives for any jobs it does for customers and the prints are sub-standard. Based on this tid-bit of info, as well as my general distaste for large box stores, I don’t recommend this option. However, folks may have this as their only option, hence why I have mentioned it.
Keep shooting, and have a wonderful day!